Happy New Year! This year make it a resolution to bring about global fitness.

How can just one person make a difference? It’s simple. If all of IDEA’s members (and others who read this publication) join together in this mission, our combined efforts can have a real impact on people’s lives throughout the world.

All you have to do is dedicate a little time, play to your strengths and know where to find the resources you’ll need to succeed. To help you do that, we have assembled this handy toolbox that you can use yearlong, from January to December.

Here’s everything you need to make fitness happen this year and for decades to come.

Start From Scratch

Don’t be afraid to take a small step to become part of the bigger solution. In 2001, Denise Moser, a junior-high teacher and group fitness instructor based in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, decided to offer an after-school boot camp program. When more than 100 kids consistently showed up each session, Moser had proof that there was a need for kids’ programs, so she applied for nonprofit status. Moser has since formed FF4K (Functional Fitness 4 Kids), which offers free after-school fitness and nutrition programs, primarily for 4th–6th graders. What began at one school in Fairfax, Virginia, has now grown to eight schools, with more than 80 schools nationally awaiting implementation as funding comes in.

After reading Bill Clinton’s book Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World (Knopf 2007), Jason Williams, a trainer in Baltimore, was inspired to create a foundation called Project Believe, designed to help organizations raise money for their specific causes. He started by donating a personal training session at a fundraiser to help the University of Maryland Children’s Program. The goal of Williams’s foundation, which is still in the start-up phase, is to find ways to help children turn their dreams into reality.

Teach What You Know

Stick with your own strengths, say the experts. Aritha Paris is the health promotion director of Healthways at William Newton Hospital in Winfield, Kansas. She specializes in cardiac rehab, older-adult, Pilates, indoor cycling and Lamaze classes and has taught some of her students for more than 28 years. “The main thing I do to inspire the world is try to get across to people that there is never a better time than now to start a commitment to an exercise program,” says Paris. “One of my 28-year attendees started out as an avid bicyclist. Now, at age 64, and after several knee replacements and rotator cuff surgery, he still comes to class. Sure, his intensity is different, but he is an inspiration to me and the whole community.”

In tandem with the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association, BC Women’s Hospital and the Arthritis Society, Melanie Galloway of Vancouver, British Columbia, teaches classes for people with arthritis and offers a fall prevention workout. In addition, she has developed a program for those recovering from cancer, traumatic accidents and other health-related conditions. And that’s just a sampling from her repertoire of classes! Galloway says she enjoys working with the older and health-
challenged population. “As I move toward my 60s, I have tried to put more time into training and mentoring,” says Galloway. “I have put 200 students through my ‘Third Age’ course and about 40 [others] through my ‘Adapted Aquatics’ course.”

While working as a certified physical therapist assistant, program coordinator and fitness instructor, KJ Grimmett of Council Grove, Kansas, wanted to find a way to help her older clientele. “I was
looking for something that would inspire my elderly patients in the nursing-home setting to work joyfully with therapy,” she says. This search led her to a Drums Alive® workshop in Utah. “After attending, I felt a passion light up,” says Grimmet. “[I’ve seen] my Alzheimer’s patients regain momentary awareness. The drumming has helped my Parkinson’s patients with their gait and movement issues. I also use [the workout] with patients who may not be able to express emotions.” Because the drumming-based fitness class was so successful with her patients, Grimmett decided to offer it to the nursing-home staff as well. “Stress is a part of life for nursing-home employees, and they enjoy cutting loose and [releasing] tension. In this manner I am able to bring exercise to a group of people who may never have attended a fitness class, let alone set foot in a gym.”

Lead the Charge

PJ O’Clair of Manchester, Massachusetts,
2008 IDEA Program Director of the Year, STOTT PILATES® master instructor trainer and owner of Northeast Pilates Education Center and Club Xcel, is using her status as a fitness professional to reach out. When not teaching, O’Clair designs postrehab programs for breast cancer survivors; trains instructors to implement programs in their local cancer centers and hospitals; gives lectures and
offers workouts to single, young, low-income mothers in a setting that’s convenient for them (in terms of daycare and cost); and provides community classes, lectures and workshops. Although O’Clair does most activities as a volunteer, she sees the overall picture and finds reward and balance from her efforts. “No matter when or how you give, you always get back,” she says. “Volunteer involvement in the community in any capacity always pays off. Live the life that you wish to inspire others to lead.”

You don’t have to be a superstar to make a difference. “I am only a normal person doing normal things for the community, but I have realized that normal things oftentimes have big effects,” says Carrie Ekins, founder of Drums Alive and a frequent IDEA presenter. From her base in Kutzenhausen, Germany, Ekins takes her various Drums Alive programs (e.g., Therapy Beats, Golden Beats) into schools, nursing homes, churches and veteran hospitals; this year, she plans to work with soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or brain damage. “It is my goal and vision to spread the joy of movement . . . on more than a physical level,” says Ekins. “We have the opportunity to help people experience the power within themselves to be better. What we give is what we get. I believe we are responsible for sharing our knowledge with the world, and that world begins at home. We have a social responsibility to give back to our communities.”

Ekins accomplishes this in many ways; she teaches drumming to elementary-school children who go to special needs schools, and her Pink Beats program sends its instructors to lead classes for cancer patients and survivors. She also offers a swim club where the children do mini-marathons to raise money for a local charity organization. Ekins believes strongly that involving children in the process of reaching out instills in them a sense of community and helps prepare them to be inspirational and involved adults.

Make Time

However busy you may be, it is possible to carve out time in your schedule to give back. Just do what you tell your clients to do: block out the time on your daily calendar and make the commitment to show up. (See the sidebar “How to Get Involved” for ideas.) Laura Martin, MS, of Seattle, is a busy personal trainer who has found ways to be creative with her limited time. “I am constantly working so don’t have much time to start any organizations,” she admits. Yet she has found time to teach at a local community center for a nominal fee so people who could not normally afford training can get fit. She also helps with fundraising campaigns for the Seattle Children’s Hospital and is planning a Girls’ Getaway activity weekend. Martin fits this all in by doing her own workout at 3:00 am every day!

Okay, not many of us are willing to exercise in the wee hours of the morning. The point to remember here is that there is always time to do something. Like Martin, you don’t need to start an organization to have an effect. You don’t have to be famous or rich. You don’t have to go it alone. What you do have to do is find a way to inspire at least one person each day in 2009. What will you do to inspire the fitness revolution?